A question of confidence

I am happy to have with me once again that inimitable poet, Tallis Steelyard, to talk a little about his latest adventures in Port Naain with his esteemed cartographer friend, Benor Dorfinngil.

cover-a-bad-pennyIt is, I freely confess, a sore point. I feel somehow that my honour has been traduced, that my good name has been taken in vain. Indeed I, Tallis Steelyard, leading poet of my generation, has been shamelessly taken advantage of.
It started simply enough when I was asked to promote a short tale, ‘A Bad Penny.’ You’ve heard of it perhaps? I thought not. Perhaps I’ll have to explain further.

Some petty hack called Jim Webster, a writer of penny dreadfuls of the worst sort, inveigled his way into the confidence of an old friend of mine, one Benor. Now in his youth Benor lived for a while in Port Naain and we were (and still are) friends. So doubtless under the influence of a heady combination of generously plied strong drink and even more generously plied flattery, Benor started telling tales of his adventures in our proud city. So many of these stories were there that this Webster chap produced a collection of them under the title of the ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’.

Are you still with me? Anyway, I have to tell you, as between friends…

Advertisements

Love in the Dark


Today I’m happy to have one final guest post from Hazel Butler. Enjoy! 🙂

A friend of mine read Bleizgeist shortly after I’d finished writing it. Their response was two-fold. First, they asked me how I managed to write such dark fiction. Then, they asked me if I didn’t think it was a little too dark.

I was able to easily answer the first question.

I write a lot, and most of what I write is dark. I believe the reason for this is largely to do with my world-view, and my life experiences. I have not had an easy time over the years, for various reasons. The world has not been kind to me, and it is often equally cruel to others. Pretending this isn’t the case does nothing to improve the universe, it simply gives people a warped view of what reality should look like. I find it easy to write dark fiction—and in particular dark fantasy—because that is the world in which I have dwelt since I was young. It’s the only world I truly know. One of my favourite authors, C.S. Lewis, once said that, ‘Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage’. I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more, however I am also of the opinion that it does children—and adults—very little good to give them the impression there is no such thing as evil in the world, that good always triumphs, and that doing the right thing never necessitates an alarming degree of personal sacrifice.

Sometimes there are no happy endings.

Sometimes the princess falls under an evil curse and never wakes up.

Sometimes it’s Prince Charming who causes her downfall.

Dark Lords triumph (if you don’t believe me, then how do you explain David Cameron?).

Heroes fail.

Grand adventures may…

Why Write Strong Female Leads? Because You’re Still Asking That Question.


Back again today is author Hazel Butler to talk about strong female characters and what makes hers different. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

One of my favourite writers (and directors), Joss Whedon, famously recounted an incident with a journalist during an Equality Now speech in 2006. It went something like this: the journalist asked, ‘So, why do you write these strong female characters?’, and in the style we have come to love and adore from the man who brought us Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and The Avengers (amongst other things), Whedon simply responded, ‘Because you’re still asking me that question’.

I’m fairly certain that everyone who has ever written a tale involving strong female characters—in particular a lead character—has been asked some variation of, ‘Why did you make your women so strong?’, and/or, ‘Why did you make your hero a woman?’

caI find it mildly ridiculous, but sadly not surprising, that this still happens. But it was a comment from a friend of mine after she read my first novel, Chasing Azrael, that really got me thinking about this. The friend in question is no chauvinist. She’s no stranger to strong female characters, in fact she’s all for them. What surprised me was her assertion that it was the first time she’d read anything wherein there was a strong female protagonist whose strength depended, not on her physical power or supernatural abilities, but due to her strength of character.

Andee Tilbrook is not a strong character because…

Unleash the Night: Dark Fantasy and Allegory


Today fantasy author Hazel Butler joins me to share her thoughts on Dark Fantasy and allegory.

Dark Fantasy has always been my favourite genre. Whether I’m reading or writing, it is a genre I return to again and again. This is partly due to my love of the dark, the gothic, the macabre, and the vaguely terrifying, but it is mainly due to the characters and meaning that often come with Dark Fantasy.

Mark Lawrence, Anne Rice, Joe Abercrombie, Stephen King, Clive Barker, even Neil Gaiman and Robin Hobb exist in the murky realms of Dark Fantasy.

It’s not a coincidence that almost all my favourite authors are on that list.

This is a genre that allows, far more than most others, for the consideration of characters, themes, and actions, which would otherwise be considered unpalatable in mainstream fiction. The ability this genre has to reveal and explore the darkest aspects of human nature and experience has always been appealing.

When I first put pen to paper to scratch out an outline for Bleizgeist, I had no idea it was going to be a Dark Fantasy tale. In fact, I was intending to write something a little more mainstream, a little more literary, something after the fashion of Rita Mae Brown or Sarah Waters.

What I ended up with was considerably different, but it should not have come as a surprise.

The character I had in mind, right from the very start, was a girl whose inherent nature was for some reason taboo. This made her an outcast, with few friends, no family, and only one means of survival—using the very nature that cursed her to her advantage.

I was looking for…

My Southern Exposure

With me today is a poet of some renown, the inimitable Tallis Steelyard, to talk a bit about poetry and adventure. 🙂

Cover A much arranged marriageI am, of course, a poet. None the less I am not biased and recognise that there are other fields of artistic endeavour which might even be considered legitimate. That being said I have always had my doubts about novelists.

This reminisce was brought on by reading the obituary of old ‘Truly’ Gicken in last nights ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’. I honestly never knew his given name, everybody called him Truly, even his wife, because of the habit he had of starting his sentences with that word.

But I remember him in his prime. He was the younger brother of Ardwok Gicken, who ran Gicken’s Printers. Ardwok didn’t have an imaginative bone in his body, but no finer printer ever drew breath. Truly was almost the opposite, but in his own way he was touched by genius. It was he who came up with the idea of ‘The Port Naain Annual Poetry Yearbook.’

What he did was canvas all the poets, potential poets, would-be poets and ‘thought they could be poets if only they’d had the chance’ in Port Naain. For a not insignificant sum he would include their poem in the yearbook. Well for me five vintenars is a not insignificant sum, even now. My lady wife and I can still live well for a day on that sort of money. But of course he was selling them a piece of the dream, he was promising them ‘exposure’, making it possible for their genius to be recognised, and of course they fell for it.

Where he showed real genius was that he…

Trees? Yes, trees!

With me today is another new author, Sam Smith.  His debut novel, Trees, releases on October 31 from Safkhet Publishing.  Take it away, Sam!

My thanks to Kay Kauffman for asking me to guest on her blog.

Although I’ve done many things sub-literary in my writing life – organised poetry festivals and book fairs, run a small press, Original Plus, and for nearly 20 years now the poetry magazine The Journal (once ‘of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry’); and although I’ve had many publishers of my work, 2 of which went disastrously bust while I was working as editor for them, Safkhet Publishing is the first that has suggested that I be a guest blogger.

treesThe novel by the way is Trees and Safkhet are based in Germany.

I’m based in the UK on the Cumbrian coast. Maryport describes itself as ‘By the sea near the Lakes.’ Not wholly sure
Continue reading

Memo to Self: A guest post by Jim Webster

JimToday, I’m pleased to let Jim Webster hijack my blog with a bit of flotsam (or maybe it’s jetsam?) about how not to pace oneself. 🙂

You know how they always say that to get there I wouldn’t start from here? I’m feeling a bit like that at the moment.

I had a succession of bright ideas. Even now, in retrospect, I think they’re bright ideas. But I suspect that the secret of good writing is the same as the secret of good comedy, it’s Timing.

It started when I was…

Darkhaven, the movie!

Blog_tour_banner_DARKHAVEN_AFE_Smith

Today I’ve got a real treat: A movie cast for Darkhaven, handpicked by the author herself!  This would book would make a wonderful movie, so I hope Hollywood is paying attention.  Also, if anyone knows where to get hold of a time machine, let us know – it would make casting so much easier! 😀

Stay tuned afterward, because I’ve got all the deets on a great Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post!

I always have difficulty with casting my characters, because no one in real life looks quite like the people in my head. I always say that if my books were going to be translated into visual media, I’d like them to be either anime or graphic novels. Nevertheless, I’ve given it a go.

Scavenger_day04Darkhaven is set in a capital city, Arkannen, into which people from many different countries have migrated over the years. Most people’s heritage is a mixture of cultures/influences; they tend to think of themselves as Arkannenites before anything else (much as Londoners are Londoners before they are British). So although Mirrorvale and its surrounding countries don’t have exact real-world analogues, I’ve chosen actors who have quite a diverse mixture of backgrounds…

Fantasy and murder: A guest post by A.F.E. Smith

Blog_tour_banner_DARKHAVEN_AFE_Smith

To kick off this fun-filled week of fantasy goodness, I’ve got a guest post for you about fantasy and murder from A.F.E. Smith.  Stay tuned afterward, because I’ve got all the deets on a great Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post!

Fantasy and murder: what’s the appeal?

It’s no secret that fantasy is, and always has been, my favourite genre. There are many reasons for that, but one very good one is that the sheer number of possibilities it opens up to a writer is breathtaking. Fantasy has no limitations except for your own imagination and your ability to convince your reader to suspend disbelief.

Yet for that reason, writing fantasy can feel like being handed a bottomless bucket, pointed in the direction of an infinitely wide pick’n’mix stand, and told to take as much as you want. And if you’re me, that might result in something like this.

I like birds. And unicorns. And shapeshifters. So let’s have a flying unicorn shapeshifter! Duels to the death, always good. Add them to the bloody murder and general mayhem. Airships, sure, why not? Bit of romance. Bit of mistaken identity. Swords, yes, gotta have plenty of swords … oooh, guns! Hmm, swords or guns … what? Swords AND guns? Don’t mind if I do. And a walled city. No, a double-walled city. No, a SEVEN-walled city.

Scavenger_day02 I’m not kidding…